Our Planet

Glowing green waters surrounded a boat in the Arabian Sea.

What Causes Swaths of the Ocean to Glow a Magnificent Milky Green?

A sailor who witnessed the rare phenomenon in person and a scientist who saw it from the sky team up to learn about the ghostly light

Royal kombu (aka sugar kelp) harvested from the Netherlands’ first organic seaweed farm enriches and flavors the Dutch Weed Burger’s soy-chip-based patty.

Innovation for Good

Is Seaweed the Next Big Alternative to Meat?

From kelp burgers to bacon of the sea, sustainable food entrepreneurs are innovating to charm hungry omnivores

The Earth’s oceans have risen and fallen over the millennia. But they have, on average, been relatively stable over billions of years. The balance of the deep water cycle—the exchange of water between the Earth’s surface and its interior—has an important role to play in maintaining that stability.

How the Earth's Mantle Sends Water Up Toward the Surface

A new model suggests "mantle rain" ensures we will always have a surface ocean

Participants in First Nature Tours help mitigate damages from wildfires in Central Oregon.

Regenerative Tourism Invites Travelers to Get Their Hands Dirty

Vacations that allow tourists to participate in conservation activities, such as habitat restoration, are growing in popularity

Las Salinas in Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge

Puerto Rico

These Salt Flats in Puerto Rico Are Cotton-Candy Pink

The distinct color of Las Salinas comes from a combination of algae, bacteria, salt and water

Blue holes, like the Great Blue Hole in Belize, are vast caverns that descend into the seafloor. Sediment accumulates at the bottom of a blue hole, giving researchers a way to gauge historical hurricane activity.

Blue Holes Show Hurricane Activity in the Bahamas Is at a Centuries-Long Low

Many more powerful storms battered the region in the past

Smart windows that tint in response to stimuli such as heat or light, or a user’s preference, are becoming more common, but it may be a while before the tech is mainstream.

What Will It Take for Smart Windows to Go Mainstream?

Specialized glass that keeps heat in during winter and lets it out during summer could make buildings much more efficient

A fossilized Modocia typicalis trilobite from Utah

Five Places to See Trilobites in the United States

In a new book, fossil collector Andy Secher takes readers on a worldwide trek of trilobite hotspots

The House of Slaves on Senegal’s Island of Gorée is one of 284 significant African coastal sites included in a recent assessment of climate risk.

Climate Change Threatens Important African Coastal Sites

Dozens of important cultural, social, and ecological places are already at risk from climate hazards.

In closing remarks at the 1969 U.N. General Assembly in New York, Black recalled an Apollo 12 astronaut who, while in orbit, remarked on the Earth’s beauty. “Some of us down here are not so sure,” she said.

Women Who Shaped History

Shirley Temple Black's Remarkable Second Act as a Diplomat

An unpublished memoir reveals how the world’s most famous child actress became a star of the environmental movement

A female saltmarsh sparrow in a New Hampshire wetland is held by University of New Hampshire graduatet student Talia Kuras. The circular device reads the transponder-containing indentification tag on the bird's leg. 

Planet Positive

Saving the Imperiled Saltmarsh Sparrow

Conservationists are racing to rescue a delightful coastal animal from rising seas

School children protest climate change outside the Scottish Parliament in 2019 as part of a worldwide demonstration.

The Future of Mental Health

Your Crushing Anxiety About the Climate Crisis Is Normal

A Stanford researcher shares what she’s learned about the ways climate change affects mental health and offers practical advice

Some seagrasses are linked to lower levels of gastroenteritis-causing pathogens in the water. 

Seagrass Can Work as a Sanitation Service

Millions of cases of potentially deadly gastroenteritis are prevented each year because of the pathogen-reducing powers of the plant

A snorkeler comes face to face with a humpback whale. If humans work to halt climate change, that may help prevent another mass extinction event in the oceans.

Without Action on Climate, Another Mass Extinction Event Will Likely Happen in the World's Oceans

Marine species at the poles will face increasing pressure if warming isn’t curbed

Since 2017 when the Smithsonian Institution launched its first Earth Optimism Summit, marine biologist Nancy Knowlton notes that positive change is happening. “The price of renewable energy is cheaper than ever, electric vehicles are finally on the verge of taking off, and the world seems ready to protect 30 percent of its lands and water,” she says.

A New Surge of Earth Optimism Takes Center Stage at This Year's Folklife Festival

The challenges are many, but evidence shows that positivity emboldens global conservation efforts

A view of a Palouse Falls in Palouse Falls State Park in Washington. Geologists believe massive floods carved out this canyon and others in the Scablands.

Devastating Ice Age Floods That Occurred in the Pacific Northwest Fascinate Scientists

The Scablands were formed by tremendous and rapid change, and may have something to teach us about geological processes on Mars

Bon Ami Mine is located in Little Switzerland, North Carolina, about 50 miles northeast of Asheville.

Black Lights Turn This North Carolina Mine Into a Psychedelic Wonderland

The Bon Ami Mine’s deposits of the mineral hyalite glow fluorescent green under ultraviolet light

Geologic processes have led to changes in the water and gases released by mudpots, geysers and springs—like this one.

Five Big Changes Scientists Have Documented During Yellowstone National Park's 150-Year History

Scientists have monitored the region closely for generations, and these are some of the most dramatic shifts they've seen

This mural outside of an outfitter's office illustrates the snaking mouth of Mosquito Bay.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico's Bioluminescent Bays Are Brighter Than Ever

The nightly light shows have rebounded from Hurricane Maria's devastating blow

Cycads growing in Litchfield National Park in Australia.

Many of These Plants Older Than Dinosaurs Face Extinction

Cycads have changed a great deal since they first appeared around 280 million years ago, and habitat loss and illegal trade are now threats

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